Last year about this time, the story of Wichita KS’s Starlite Drive-In Theatre was a sad one indeed. Its recently acquired owner had shut down the Starlite and was reportedly on the verge of selling the place for warehouse development.
Remarkably, the Starlite recovered. Local leaders saw the importance of the city’s last drive-in and came up with a plan that saved it. So this week’s report by KSNW, Wichita’s News Leader, is more of a quiet celebration of the end of a successful season where the only drama was on the big screen.
The news story has some nice video of the Starlite, which is always welcome here, and it includes a few interview clips with current owner Blake Smith. He said that attendance is up a bit, and that it took him a little while to learn how to execute some of the fundamentals of running the drive-in.
Souvenir cups were a big hit this season at the Starlite, and Smith said he’s considering selling season passes for 2020. I would suggest that those cups are a no-brainer; if they’re refillable, they sit around as a constant advertisement and reminder to come back for more movies. Season passes are trickier. I hope that Smith gets good advice on those.
I also hope that this note finishes the saga of near-closure and civic redemption for the Starlite, which should settle back down as just another successful drive-in. Meanwhile, enjoy the video of how it looks today.
Great news! After sitting idle for 30 years, the Moonlite Drive-In in West Wyoming PA has reopened. Even better is that we have video of the event courtesy of WNEP, Scranton’s News Leader.
Owner Eric Symeon bought the place in early 2017 and spent two years working to clear out the effects of decades of neglect. He told the nearby Times Leader, “There was only two of us working on it, clearing the land, doing all new sewers, electric.” WNEP added the detail that over 200 trees were removed to make room for the restored parking ramps.
If you want to read more about the process, Carload ran stories on Symeon’s work as he applied to reopen the Moonlite and when he bought the drive-in’s digital projector from the freshly closed Cascade Drive-In of West Chicago IL earlier this year. Then sit back, watch the video, and rejoice that another drive-in has rejoined the land of the living.
About a year ago, I had an idea that clicked so hard in my head that I couldn’t shake it out. It was for a book I wanted to read, an intersection between two nostalgic niches – Route 66 and drive-in theaters. Since nobody else had published the book I wanted, I was stuck with the task of writing it.
For the past six months, I’ve been working on gathering all the details and images I can legally plop into my book, and now it’s ready for you to read. Drive-Ins of Route 66 is available on Amazon as a Kindle book, a full-color paperback, and a less expensive black and white paperback. The Kindle version is also included for Kindle Unlimited members. (And of course, if you click through the links in this post, I get a small affiliate percentage in addition to any royalties I’d earn.)
This book is chock full of quirky turns of phrase, old and new illustrations, and the stories behind each of the 105 drive-in theaters that ever existed within about two miles of Route 66, or one of its alternates, while it was active. Some tell of fights with the censors, some tell of fights with each other, and at least one drive-in is described for the first time in print in over half a century. I’ll be adding some excerpts (such as the chapter called A Short History of Drive-Ins) here on Carload in the weeks to come so you can get a taste.
This book is meant to be periodically updated with new information. So if you spot a mistake or know something interesting to add, let me know so I can include it in the next edition. With ebooks, that next edition could be out next week.
If you’re okay with reading books on a device or your computer (however you’re reading this now), I’d recommend the Kindle version, which lets you see some very nice color photos at a fraction of the cost of the full-color paperback. (It turns out that printing dozens of book pages with all of those inks gets expensive.) You know you want to read this, so go buy it!